We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephen Monroe Taylor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephen, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
In addition to being a woodworker, I am a TV and film actor. Sometimes that means I’m shooting for a day or two and then I’m done, and other times I can be away for a month or months at a time. That’s not something that is in my control, but I do try and make up for that lost time by spending more time with my family before I leave or when I get home. Before I was married and had a child, I relished the idea of shooting in a foreign country or spending long days on set. Now, while I love the work, I feel more drawn to my family because time with them is precious. My son just turned nine and he is changing every day. When he was two, I missed four months of his life while shooting a miniseries in Mexico. What milestones took place while I was away? Did I miss the opportunity to teach him something he needed to learn from his dad? He doesn’t even remember me being gone, but I do, and I think about it a lot.
Here’s the other past experience that springs to mind… For ten years, I was the lead carpenter at Dark Harbor at The Queen Mary, a halloween haunt event down in Long Beach. I worked there from April – November every year. We live in the mid-Valley so, for those who don’t know, the rush-hour commute is about 90 minutes. I loved that job so much that it was worth spending all that time in my car. For two of the years, my wife even worked there with me so and that was a lot of fun. But for remaining eight years, we had a kid at home. I would leave at 5:30am, before he woke up, and returned home at 7pm, which is about 60-90 minutes before his bedtime. I literally saw him for about an hour a day, which was difficult. I tried my best to be present and available every Friday through Sunday (We worked Monday-Thursday), and on the off months, so that he would get plenty of parental interaction when I WAS home.
During the pandemic, I decided it was the right time to start my own woodworking business. It began with executing a home renovation and ended up with me having my own workshop, and a more curated collection of interesting trays, cutting boards, tables, vanities, etc. Doing what I love every day makes me want to work long hours in my shop, but I strive to set more family-friendly hours so that I can invest in the relationships I’ve built at home. (A home that is now only twenty minutes away from my shop!) My wife and son are incredibly supportive of my business and the hopes and dreams I have for its future, but they will always come first. Lucky for me, they are also very busy with full schedules of work and extracurriculars, so I have plenty of time to create my products and build my business.
What should our readers know about your business?
Mullets & Marmots is a fine woodworking business. We create custom furniture (vanities, coffee tables, and dining tables) and smaller pieces such as cutting boards, charcuterie trays, serving trays, and decorative pieces like bowls, business card holders, etc. We use awesome and interesting cuts of rough wood, make this smooth, and mix with colorful epoxy to create one-of-a-kind pieces that capture the essence of the person who ordered it. We also make cool pieces ahead of time that compliment all manor of decor with the perfect combination of form and function to add a pop of style and visual interest. A great example is our racing stripe cutting board with combines the light, medium, and dark wood grains of curly maple, Bolivian rosewood, and walnut, respectively.
What sets us apart in today’s world is that we aren’t using any gimmicks or visual trickery to garner more likes or followers. We are interested in creating pieces that really speak to our customers and to people who just happen upon our page/pictures. Recently, a friend of ours, mother to three and matriarch to a HUGE family, said that she was looking for an oversized cutting board that can double as a charcuterie board for family events. At the same time, another friend, a midwife and birthing coach, was looking for petite cutting board for a specific space in her very small kitchen. We assembled one VERY LARGE racing stripe cutting board and made both boards to order from the same piece. We called them “The Mother and Baby” boards. Both customers received pictures and an explanation of how their two individual boards were intrinsically connected to each other, though they had never met. That special touch not only delighted them both, but made them repeat customers because they felt like we really listened to their needs and executed their orders on both a personal and professional level. We also name the first product from any new design after the person who ordered it. Sometimes, a customer will conjure up a brand new design just to have the honor of it being names after them. If two people order it together, we allow them to give us a mash-up of their two names for the website/look book.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
So my best friend moved out to California with me; we are both from Texas. He’s a loyal customer! 🙂
But seriously, my wife’s best friend, Jenny, lives back east, where Ashley is from. She has been out here several times over the last 20 years, so as we have all grown up, our itinerary changes. Before we had children, we went to Vegas for the weekend or hung out in bars to play pool and have drinks. Now that we all have children, we look for more kid-friendly options. After the first and most-obvious stop – THE MULLETS & MARMOTS WORKSHOP – we would definitely hit up the beach. Our recent favorite spot is Leo Carrillo State Park. The tide pools make for excellent observation of tiny sea life specimens and in the distance you can see surfers and sometimes dolphins. Any LA beach is a must for a true California vacation.
Another fun (and only semi-touristy) locale is The Queen Mary (especially if Dark Harbor is happening.) You can spend the daylight hours exploring the ship bow to stern and then, as night falls, and the park lights up, you can get into the event to visit mazes, ride the swings, and hang out in the RIP cabanas to watch monsters, acrobats, fire performers, magicians, and the famous Dark Harbor Sliders entertain, delight, and horrify the crowds.
One of LA’s hidden treasures is a restaurant (also haunted…) is nestled in the hills where Calabasas and Malibu meet. Saddle Peak Lodge is a tantalizing experience in fine-dining, specializing in wild game. My wife used to work there and it’s also where we got married. I highly suggest going there at least once for a very special occasion and, if you are a meat-eater, treat yourself to the game tasting plate. It’s a heavenly trifecta of deliciousness.
After recovering from that food coma, we’d hit The Hollywood Bowl, a Dodgers game, the new LEGO “Art of the Brick” exhibit, a studio tour, and maybe even attend a TV taping (and if it’s a show I’m on, even better!). This may not be the most original list, but why wouldn’t you do all the classic LA things in a town like LA? You wouldn’t go to Las Vegas and be like, “Oh there’s a really interesting little bookshop way off the main drag that you should check out!”
And at some point, we are going to get Jenny and her family out here and take the kids to Disneyland. We have been waiting until they’re old enough to really remember and appreciate it, and I think that time has come, since they are both nine years old. I, myself, am not a fan of crowds, lines, or rides, so it’s definitely going to be a one-time event. Both parks, a full three-day *BONANZA* with all the trimmings and every possible event on the schedule. I know some people get the annual pass and go as often as possible, but that’s just not in our blood. But I do think you have to give yourself over to the whole Disney experience at least once or twice in your life, especially when you have kids.
After all that excitement, I’ll probably have to spend a week alone in my workshop to recover. That’s definitely where I am the most comfortable and, no offense to Disney but, it’s truly the happiest place on Earth.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Let me give a shoutout to the people who are helping my new woodshop take off! First and foremost, Kathy Kann and Natalie Dreyfuss, who not only gave me the initial home renovation gig that jumpstarted the company, but also generously donated their garage to give Mullets & Marmots a permenant home base. Next, I have two young friends who helped me set up the space, taught me more about the power of social media and website design, and are a tremendous sounding board when it comes to the design and execution of new projects: Azim Rizk and Jorden Zahner.
When I think back to the beginning, when I was still doing this job as a side hustle, I remember and appreciate the very supportive Mandy Pankowski who not only bought some of my first pieces, but also introduced me to the powers-that-be at. her place of business, convincing them to trust the new guy to build them tables, computer desks, and carts for their cherished school.
I must also give a tremendous and humble Thank You to a guy who was the other half of Mullets & Marmots, before the pandemic swept him away to Missouri. Adam Conger has been my best friend and co-worker through five years on a home makeover TV show, ten years at Dark Harbor, and a year of home renovations and personal projects in his garage.
Last but very certainly not least, my wife Ashley. There isn’t enough room on this page to thank her for 17 years of her support, teamwork, insight, creativity, and love. She also does all the paperwork, phone calls, scheduling, wrapping and sending, and general organization on the other side of this business (aka all the stuff I hate), all while keeping our son on top of all his things, our homelife moving along smoothly, her own full-time teaching job and creative projects. She makes me laugh every single day. She and our amazing son Killian are the very reason I choose to chase this and every dream.
Website: mulletsandmarmots.com (Coming Nov. 1st!)
Facebook: Mullets & Marmots
Photo Credits: Jorden Zahner